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Dmitri Shostakovich

Russian composer and pianist Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was born in St Petersburg on 25 September 1906 into a family of Polish Catholic heritage. His talent was spotted at the aged of eight, when he took piano lessons with his mother.

In 1919 he entered Glazunov's St Petersburg Conservatory, studying piano with Leonid Nikolayev and later Elena Rozanova, composition with Maximilian Steinberg and counterpoint and fugue with Nikolay Sokolov. His first major piece was his first Symphony, written as his graduation piece when he was twenty.

Life was to be difficult for an artist working within the Soviet regime, and already, political pressure was building. He was perceived to lack political zeal, and he failed an exam in Marxist methodology.

He began a double career - as both composer and pianist. When his dry performing style failed to impress some, and when Bruno Walter championed Shostakovich's symphony, performing it in Berlin in 1927, the young composer began to concentrate his efforts on composition, from then on playing mostly only his own music.

The story of his life is largely that of a battle with the Soviet authorities. Twice he fell from grace - in 1936 and 1948. On the first occasion, probably instigated by Stalin, the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (which had been immediately successful in 1934) was condemned as formalist, coarse, primitive and vulgar. As a result, his income dropped to about 25% of its previous level.

During the war, much of the Leningrad Symphony was written whilst Shostakovich and his family remained in the city under German siege. He added to wartime propaganda, having his picture taken as a fire warden and broadcasting to the Soviet people. The symphony, once completed, was adopted as a symbol of Russian resistance, in both the East and the West.

In 1948 many composers, Shostakovich included, were denounced for formalism in the Zhdanov decree. This time, most of his music was banned, and privileges were withdrawn from his family. The restrictions were lifted in 1949, but it was not until 1953, when Stalin died, that Shostakovich's official rehabilitation began.

In 1960 he was blackmailed into joining the Communist Party, and it was at this time that his health started to deteriorate, and the music began to be flavoured by Shostakovich's obsession with his own mortality.

He died in Moscow, of lung cancer, on 9 August 1975, and the authorities spent three days approving his official obituary before publication in Pravda.

Shostakovich's eclectic music is basically conservative - tonal and Romantic - but with elements of atonality and chromaticism, and sometimes tone rows. It makes much use of contrast between the static and the dynamic.

A selection of M&V articles about Dmitri Shostakovich

CD Spotlight. Heavy Laden - Performances of Shostakovich violin concertos, admired by Robert Anderson. 'Christian Tetzlaff manages both works' difficulties effortlessly ...'

CD Spotlight. Commanding Authority - Shostakovich and Schnittke string quartets, heard by Howard Smith. '... vivid sonic immediacy.'

CD Spotlight. Sheer Delight - Halida Dinova plays music for children, recommended by Howard Smith. '... palpable finesse.'

Ensemble. Collective Virtuosity - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and Britten from Natalie Clein, the Moscow Philharmonic and Yuri Simonov, heard by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Elusive and Disguised - Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony impresses Gerald Fenech. 'A strong competitor for the disc of the year ...'

Ensemble. Perfect Settings - New Year in Italy, by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. Emotional Range - Shostakovich and Weinberg string quartets, heard by Andrew Schartmann. '... virtuoso passages leap off the page with excitement ...'

Ensemble. A Lesson to be Learned - The Cleveland Orchestra welcomes back its music director Franz Welser-Möst, by Suzanne Torrey

Ensemble. A Great Deal of Fun - Maria Nockin takes a whiff of an early Shostakovich opera

Ensemble. A Gripping Start - Sunkwook Kim, Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra in Nottingham impress Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Thanksgiving and Transcendence - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to orchestral and chamber concerts at the Salzburg Summer Festival

Ensemble. Household Rituals - Contemporary and modern music at Aix-en-Provence, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. Monumental Effect - Three companies combine forces, experienced by Maria Nockin

Ensemble. Swift and Corrosive - Giuseppe Pennisi takes a sniff at Shostakovich's 'The Nose'

Great Delicacy - Jenny Lin at Notttingham's Royal Concert Hall, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. A Fabulous Evening - Hokusai Chamber Orchestra's memorial concert for the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami impresses Bill Newman

CD Spotlight. Excellent Throughout - Shostakovich and Prokofiev string quartets, heard by Howard Smith. '... flawless technical address and heartfelt aim ...'

Ensemble. Tender Lyricism - Andrew Gourlay and the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Born to Excel - Recent concerts in London, heard by Bill Newman

CD Spotlight. Original Soloists - Shostakovich concertos, enjoyed by Robert Anderson. '... high-powered music-making ...'

Ensemble. Compellingly Memorable - Haydn, Shostakovich and Schubert from the Allegri Quartet, reviewed by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Beauteous Tone - Flautist Lisa Friend's debut disc, heard by Howard Smith. '... pleasing and ideally accomplished.'

Ensemble. Sensuous Depths - A selection of orchestral concerts at London's Royal Festival Hall, heard by Bill Newman

CD Spotlight. Sensitively Aware - Piano concertos and a violin sonata, heard by Robert Anderson. 'The performances do full justice to Shostakovich's demands ...'

Ensemble. Beautifully Precise - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Ysaÿe from the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. An Incendiary Outcry - Shostakovich and contemporaries, heard by Howard Smith. '... little to quibble at ...'

Ensemble. A Memorable Occasion - Redwood, Shostakovich, Janácek and Mozart from André de Ridder and Sinfonia Viva, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. 2011 Specials - A roundup of London concerts enjoyed by Bill Newman, featuring recitals by Alice Sara Ott, the Emerson Quartet, Martin Fröst and Roland Pontinen, the Orchestra of the Polish EU Presidency, Kreeta-Julia Heikkilä and Roope Grondahl, and Martino Tirimo's Rosamunde Trio

Ensemble. Sharply Etched - Mozart and Shostakovich from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Brilliant Throughout - Kirill Karabits conducts the RPO, reviewed by Bill Newman

CD Spotlight. Powerful Capabilities - Piano trios by Weinberg and Shostakovich, heard by Howard Smith. '... notable gusto ...'

Persuasive Simplicity - Serghei Constantinov at Steinway Hall in London, reviewed by Bill Newman

DVD Spotlight. Not for Everyone - A collaboration between Turnage and Scofield, reviewed by Ron Bierman. '... well executed ...'

Ensemble. The Quality of Mercy - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the 2011 Aix-en-Provence Festival and reports on four of the six operas

CD Spotlight. A Towering Rage - Shostakovich's Symphony No 11, heard by Robert Anderson. '... total conviction.'

Ensemble. Musical Outlooks - Bill Newman attends a selection of concerts at London's Wigmore Hall

Ensemble. Unique Harmonies - Shostakovich's 'Moscow, Cherry Town', enjoyed by Maria Nockin

Profile. Humanizing Emotions - American conductor James Conlon talks to Maria Nockin

Ensemble. A Touching Portrait - Shostakovich chamber music, heard by Mary Isaac

Ensemble. Unmissable Talents - An array of artists at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman

CD Spotlight. Somewhat Lacklustre - Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, heard by Howard Smith. '... a tumultuous, dynamic conclusion.'

CD Spotlight. Varied Moods - The Icicle Creek Piano Trio, heard by Robert Anderson. '... admirably captured ...'

Malcolm Smith (1932-2011) - A celebration, not an obituary, by Bill Newman

Ensemble. Full of Irony - Shostakovich's 'The Nose', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. Deeply Satisfying - Elena Kuschnerova plays J S Bach, selected by Howard Smith. '... decisive and fresh as a dewfall.'

Ensemble. Fun with the Slides - Haydn, Shostakovich and Beethoven from The Aves Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. What does this symphony mean? - Shostakovich's 'Leningrad', heard by Giuseppe Pennisi

A Golden Treasury - Havergal Brian on European and American music, read by Patric Standford

Ensemble. A Memorable Night - The Israel Camerata Orchestra Jerusalem, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. An Apt Mix - Alena Baeva, Terje Mikkelsen and The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Electronics Prevails - 'Orphée' at the Roma-Europa Festival, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. Impeccable - Music by Szymanowski, Webern and Schoeck, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'The quartet plays with authority throughout ...'

Spokesman for Soviet Society? - Colin Albin discusses Shostakovich and the state

CD Spotlight. Quite Orgiastic - Petrenko conducts Shostakovich, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... very much on the ball ...'

Ensemble. Performance to Cherish - Lawrence Budmen submits a further report from the Tanglewood Festival 2010

Ensemble. A Remarkable Event - Paul Sarcich visits the West Cork Chamber Music Festival

Ensemble. Charm and Elan - Vladimir Ashkenazy, Ingrid Fliter and the Cleveland Orchestra, heard by Lawrence Budmen

A Vision of Shostakovich's String Quartet No 8 - A poem by J Jean Mayfield

Ensemble. Celebrating in Style - Derby Concert Orchestra's sixtieth birthday, with Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Unusual and Different - Tan Dun's 'The Banquet', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. A Spectral Atmosphere - Murray McLachlan plays music by Shostakovich and friends, recommended by Howard Smith. '... an outright triumph for the label and for McLachlan.'

Ensemble. Something Magical - Andris Nelsons conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. A Class Of Its Own - Lawrence Budmen listens to the Cleveland Orchestra

CD Spotlight. Great Poise - Petrenko conducts Shostakovich symphonies, recommended by Paul Sarcich. '... care and thoughtfulness ...'

Ensemble. Shift of Perspective - The Stanford Quartet plays Mozart, Shostakovich, Borodin and Piazzolla, welcomed by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. An Excellent Introduction - Chamber music by Steven R Gerber, heard by Patric Standford. '... impressive quality.'

Arts and the Colour of Politics - Béla Hartmann muses on growing social equality and democratization

Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton

Ensemble. Especially Successful - Gillian Wills reports from the Australian Fesival of Chamber Music

Balancing Act - Beethoven in E flat, with Julian Jacobson and friends

Ensemble. Suite Brolga - Music of David Salisbury at the 2009 Australian Festival of Chamber Music, reported by Malcolm Tattersall

Ensemble. An Immensely Successful Event - Thomas Bielinski reports from the West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2009

Ensemble. A Heady Delight - Shostakovich's operetta 'Moskva, Cheryomushki', reviewed by Mike Wheeler

Life and Other Distractions - Béla Hartmann writes about the relevance of biography to an appreciation of the arts

Record Box. Craftsmanship and Spirit - Symphonies by James Cohn, heard by Patric Standford

Ensemble. Declamatory Eloquence - Mendelssohn, Haydn and Shostakovich from the Navarra Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Compositional Mastery - Maxwell Davies' Naxos Quartets 9 and 10, applauded by Howard Smith. '... much to admire ...'

Ensemble. Beautifully Handled - Haydn, Dvorák and Lawrie Rose from the Iuventus Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Rousing Performance - Mendelssohn, Ravel, Larsen and Tchaikovsky in South Florida, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Ensemble. A Near-perfect Occasion - Alice McVeigh braves the snow to listen to Fretwork at London's Wigmore Hall

Ensemble. A Passionate Attraction - The Cleveland Orchestra in Miami, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Ensemble. Meltingly Beautiful - Joshua Bell joins Vladimir Ashkenazy and the New World Symphony for music by Saint-Saëns and Mahler, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Record Box. Richly Moving - Jamie Walton plays Shostakovich, recommended by Alice McVeigh

Ensemble. Shade and Nuance - Chamber music by Julian Dawes, appreciated by Malcolm Miller

Ensemble. Intense Leadership - Sierra, Ginastera and Rachmaninov conducted by Alasdair Neale, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Ensemble. Tonal Contrast - A recital by Victoria Simonsen and Simon Lane, appreciated by Mike Wheeler

Record Box. Fundamentals of Censorship - Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony, reviewed by Robert Anderson

Ensemble. Velvety Tones - Farewell American performances by the Beaux Arts Trio and an Amernet String Quartet recital, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Record Box. Fascinating and Rewarding - Works by Kosçak Yamada, heard by Patric Standford

Ensemble. Wonderfully Refreshing - Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic on tour impress Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Wonderfully Inventive - Music and dance on the theme of creation, appreciated by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Faultless Unanimity - A concert by the Roberts Quartet, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler

Record Box. An Independent Voice - Patric Standford listens to orchestral music by Ester Mägi

DVD Spotlight. Ineluctably Absorbing - Ganelin Trio Priority live in Vilnius, enjoyed by Howard Smith. 'Jazz in Lithuania has never looked back.'

Ensemble. Sensitively Attuned - Dvorák, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky from the Burlington Piano Trio, by Mike Wheeler

Ensemble. Music of Friends - Malcolm Miller attends a concert in London's Great Chamber of the Charterhouse

DVD Spotlight. Haunting Imagery - Tony Palmer tells the story of Shostakovich, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... a landmark among 20th century cinema documents.'

DVD Spotlight. Shostakovich's Shocker - 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk', reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... fully appropriate disorder ...'

Ensemble. An Impressive Partnership - A recital by Katherine Jenkinson and Alison Farr, reviewed by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Focus on Loneliness - Music by Lera Auerbach and Shostakovich [listen], reviewed by Howard Smith. '... unfailing virtuosity.'

Ensemble. Lovingly Shaped - André de Ridder and Sinfonia Viva, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Achingly Beautiful - Leila Josefowicz plays Shostakovich, recommended by Howard Smith. '... her tightrope assurance is breathtaking.'

Ensemble. Three Premières - Malcolm Miller applauds the latest concert of music by Julian Dawes

Apropos 'le deluge' - A book about Shostakovich, reviewed by George Balcombe

Ensemble. Flair and Fidelity - A concert by the Aroha String Quartet, enjoyed by Howard Smith

Ensemble. A Surreal Evening - Mike Wheeler reports from the Buxton Festival

Ensemble. The Journey Begins - Malcolm Tattersall is at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music 2006

Ensemble. All Deception - Shostakovich's opera 'The Nose', enjoyed by David Wilkins

Ensemble. Artistic vision - Russian artists bring soul to Shostokovich, by Lawrence Budmen

Provocations - Alistair Hinton and Chad Wozniak discuss Patric Standford's recent 'Provocative Thoughts'

Ensemble. Magnificent playing - Mûza Rubackyté in recital, and on disc, appreciated by Bill Newman

Ensemble. Darkness to light - Malcolm Tattersall is at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music

CD Spotlight. Sheer modernity - Shostakovich's 2nd and 14th symphonies, appreciated by Patric Standford. '... a superb disc ...'

Ensemble. Rebel to rebel - Beethoven, Berg and others in Cleveland and New York, reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

Ensemble. Glistening quality - Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Ensemble. Visions and miracles - Scott Yoo conducts music by Shostakovich, Christopher Theofanidis and Schubert, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Ensemble. Beauty and tragedy - Dennis Russell Davies at the Oberstdorf Music Festival, reported by Tess Crebbin

Ensemble. The transformative power of music - An eloquent Schumann Trio tops the Sarasota Festival, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Ensemble. Powerful Shostakovich - A valedictory performance by the Miami String Quartet, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen

Premature conclusions? - Alistair Hinton replies to Robert Hugill on the subject of composers and sexuality

CD Spotlight. Powerful and playful - Fritz Reiner conducts Bartók, admired by Robert Anderson. '... agonised intensity of utmost eloquence.'

Ensemble. Visions of sublimity - Lawrence Budmen listens to Yefim Bronfman and the American String Quartet

Ensemble. An imposing start - David Thompson was at the First Night of the BBC Proms in London.

Profile. A great schooling - Bill Newman talks to Igor Oistrakh as the 50th anniversary of the violinist's UK début approaches

CD Spotlight. Uncomfortable bedfellows - Shostakovich symphonies Nos 1 and 12, compared by David Thompson. 'Praise to all departments ...'

Ensemble. Shostakovich and Beethoven Trios - Malcolm Miller enjoys the Stockholm Arts Trio's UK début

Ensemble. Of head and heart - David Thompson samples three symphonies from two international orchestras at the BBC Proms

Ensemble. Celebration and Desolation - Andrew Campling, Musical Director of the London Docklands Singers, attended a Trio Melisma concert in London

Record box - Russian master. Basil Ramsey enjoying Shostakovich

CD Spotlight - Passion and gloom. '... Gwyneth George ... riding the technical difficulties with enviable ease ...' Rachmaninov and Shostakovich cello sonatas, an appraisal by Robert Anderson

CD Spotlight - Darkly brooding. '... a thoughtful and carefully prepared account, beautifully played and recorded.' Shostakovich's Sixth and Tenth Symphonies, with David Thompson

Ensemble - In memory. Keith Bramich reports on a McCabe première, given as part of Japan 2001

Paradise Moscow - Opera North's new production of the Shostakovitch musical at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, UK. Patric Standford was at the first night ...

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